One-on-one with Dan Duquette (plus minor league notes)

SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is about to begin his third season running the team’s on-field operations. After producing winning teams in Montreal and Boston, Duquette’s first two O’s clubs have had winning records, and the 2012 team ended the Orioles’ string of 14 straight losing seasons with its first playoff appearance since 1997.

The native of Dalton, Mass., is an Amherst College grad and twice has been honored as MLB Executive of the Year.

With opening day fast approaching, Duquette sat down with for a one-on-one interview yesterday in his press box suite at Ed Smith Stadium during the Orioles-Rays game.

Here is the first part of that interview with the second one, dealing mostly with the minor leagues, to come later today.

duquette-smiles-sidebar.jpgHow do you size up the Orioles and the roster with about 10 days to go?

“Well, we still have some work to do. I always say if you’ve been through spring training and you’re healthy, you’ve had a good spring training. So we’re making good progress. We are getting our pitchers stretched out and I think we have some pretty good choices for our pitching staff. Once we sort through the bullpen, I think we have some pretty good choices there, too.”

Do you feel good about the team’s chances this year?

“I think we’ll be ready to play and I think we have a real competitive group. We have all our core players back. We’ve added a couple of players and I think some kids in our farm system are maturing.”

Have the additions of Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez helped energize the team even more than it was?

“I think our players like the idea that Cruz is in the lineup and he lengthens our lineup. Obviously, they’ve competed against Jimenez in the American League. They know he has good stuff and could be very helpful.”

In the last few days before the opener, will it be active in the industry with players out of options on your team and others?

“There will be some activity. There always is. Most teams have the same issue - too many players and not enough jobs. So, we’ll see how it goes.”

How do you try to maximize your talent with that being the case?

“Just make the best choices you can. Try to get the best players on your team and have some depth at Triple-A to help during the season.”

The last two years, the Orioles have used more than 50 players. It only happened once in team history until 2012. Could it happen again?

“Well, is that true? It’s been 50 players the last two years and only one other time?”

Yep, it happened just once before and it was in 1955.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to use that many this year (laughs). But if we have to make a number of player moves, I think we’re in pretty good shape. We’ll do what we have to do. I think we have a little more depth in the minors. And I like some of the young pitchers we have that could come up and help the team this year.”

How do you see Jonathan Schoop? Could he make the opening day roster?

“Jon Schoop has had a good camp and is going to be a good big league player. I don’t know when the exact timing will be. He’s worked very hard to get himself into position to help our club this year. He’s gotten bigger, he’s in good shape. He’s coming along, he looks good.”

Over the winter you got criticized by media and fans, and then very late, you made some big acquisitions. Did you have any sense it could play out like that?

“We were trying to sign a number of players and it didn’t work out the way we thought it might. But if we signed the players we signed back in November or December, people would say the Orioles are gearing up.

“We tried to get it done then but it wasn’t possible. When we did get the deals done, our fans seemed to like the experienced players we brought in. I think our club can be very competitive.”

What is it like when you’ve made offers, but didn’t sign guys and it’s getting late? Were you getting concerned yourself?

“Well, in this case, our patience paid off and we were able to sign Jimenez and Cruz, and they should be able to contribute to the team.”

You’ve said the Orioles could spend a $100 million or more and you’ve done that. Do you have more resources if you need to spend more now or later in the year?

“You know, some of that will depend on what kind start the team gets off to and how some of these kids come along in the minor leagues.

“I like some of the players in the minors and they should be able to come up and help us. Henry Urrutia has had a decent camp. He and Schoop, Mike Wright, (Kevin) Gausman, (Dylan) Bundy, Tim Berry, Eduardo Rodriguez. They all might be able to contribute to this year’s ballclub.”

But if you have to make an expenditure you feel you need, will you be able to do it?

“Well, we’ll see how we do with the group that we have. The American League East is tough, but we’re in the mix and I like the competitiveness of our group. I think the fans like this group of players. One of our keys between now and the season will be can we get Manny (Machado) back to help us from the start.”

Let’s talk about J.J. Hardy. You’ve mentioned you want to extend him. Where does that stand right now?

“That is in process. We’ve talked to his representative and we are not going to talk about it anymore publicly. Once the season starts, we are not going to be talking about contracts.”

Do you mean to the media or with the player reps?

“Well, we don’t usually do that during the season. I don’t think it’s good for the fans or the players.”

Here are some notes on Wednesday’s minor league games:

* Triple-A Norfolk tied 2-2. Nick Additon pitched three scoreless innings on two hits with one walk and four strikeouts. Ivan De Jesus Jr. went 2-for-3 with a double.

* Double-A Bowie lost 7-3. Michael Burgess was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs and Ronald Bermudez went 1-for-4 with a double.

* Single-A Frederick won 3-0. Matt Taylor pitched three scoreless, hitless innings with two walks and four strikeouts. Matt Price closed the game with a scoreless inning and three strikeouts. Brenden Webb went 2-for-4 with two solo homers.

* Single-A Delmarva tied 0-0. Sebastian Vader started and pitched three scoreless innings, allowing four hits with no walks and one strikeout. Luc Rennie pitched three scoreless no-hit innings with two walks and four strikeouts.

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